Saturday, 2 April 2011

ditch The Block

OPEN Shoreditch member Jago Action Group is taking up arms against the gross over development of the Huntingdon Estate, the light industrial estate bordered by Bethnal Green Road and Redchurch Street, next to the Tea building. Developers Londonnewcastle are so passionate about the neighbourhood that they want to bless this low-rise mixed residential quarter with a 25-storey tower block.

In a cynical bid to buy off Tower Hamlets development committee, Londonnewcastle proposes to build affordable housing squidged between two busy railway lines half a mile from the gleaming tower block. The 'fact' sheet issued in support of the development application omits just one really crucial fact: the Huntingdon Estate application is for a 25-story tower block. And neither do the pictures tell the real story, as only eight floors of the proposed tower can be seen.

In a covering email, the developers claim to be 'tremendously passionate about the location, the area and it's possibilities...' There's no doubting their passion – to dig themselves out of the large hole in their balance sheet, as a result of taking an option on the site at the height of the property boom. Faced with a site cost of double what's it's currently worth, Londonnewcastle is desperately trying to claw back potential losses by bequeathing the neighbourhood a monument to its folly.

Jago Action Group objects to the plans because:

  • A 25-STOREY TOWER BLOCK is completely out of keeping with the current scale, massing and height of the existing buildings on Redchurch, Ebor and Chance streets, which are all 2-4 storeys in height.
  • There is ZERO affordable housing proposed on the Huntingdon Estate. A gated community in the sky for City bankers will not contribute to the development of a sustainable mixed community.

JAGO Action Group can be contacted at

What you can do:

If you live, work or socialise in this part of Shoreditch, support the local community by:

1/ Joining our 'ditch The Block' group here on Facebook

2/ Printing and distributing the 'ditch The Block' poster (click on the image and drag it to your desktop)

3/ Viewing the planning application here

And if you agree with us, email Tower Hamlets' planning team/department:
and cc your email to the local councillors:
4/ Copying and pasting the letter below into your own document and sending it to the planning department:

(Remember to include your address and postcode with your objection and include the planning application reference numbers: PA/11/00460 and PA/11/00461)

Simon Ryan
Development Control – Planning Department
London Borough of Tower Hamlets
Mulberry Place (AH)
PO Box 55739
5 Clove Crescent
London E14 2BE

Dear Sirs

PA/11/00460 and PA/11/00461: Huntingdon Estate on Redchurch, Chance and Ebor Streets and Bethnal Green Road

I strongly object to planning applications PA/11/00460 and PA/11/00461 as gross overdevelopment of the former Huntingdon Estate and specifically because:

(a)            the proposed 25-STOREY TOWER BLOCK is too high and completely out of keeping with current scale, massing and height of the existing buildings on Redchurch, Ebor and Chance Streets, which are all 2-4 storeys in height;

(b)            the development will cause GREAT HARM to the character of the Redchurch Street, South Shoreditch and Boundary Estate Conservation Areas;

(c)            it is unacceptable that the proposed development includes ZERO social or affordable housing on the site of the Huntingdon Estate development as this will not contribute to the development of a sustainable, mixed community; and

(d)            it is unacceptable that ALL of the social and affordable housing is located on a site surrounded by two busy railway lines, which is a large distance away from the Huntingdon Estate.

I urge the London Borough of Tower Hamlets to REFUSE the above planning applications.

Yours sincerely






Anonymous said...

"the proposed 25-STOREY TOWER BLOCK is too high and completely out of keeping with current scale, massing and height of the existing buildings"??!!
Of course it is, it's called development. Do you really think a 21st Century world capital with a dire housing shortage and increasing population is going to limit itself to building height set in the 18th Century?

Christopher T E said...

This is some world class architecture that the neighbourhood truly deserves, rather than some cheap ill thought out 'box park' that no ones seems to object to in the slightest.

I am a local with an interest in our neighbourhood growing and improving.

OPEN Shoreditch said...

Thanks for your post and comments on the nature of development. Shoreditch is attractive for its history and diversity, which together make for today's creative buzz. The proposal regrettably does not respect either history or diversity.
The tower would dominate a designated Conservation Area, intended to protect our historic built environment; while the proposal for market housing on one site and social housing on another, segregates instead of supporting a diverse community. Tall buildings belong in designated tall building locations, such as the City, Aldgate and Canary Wharf, not in historic low-rise residential areas. It will not solve local problems, as the tower element features 118 luxury apartments with no family housing provided on the site.
World class cities have personality and quality development has respected that, since the slash and burn of the 60s.
Local community action stopped Westminster Council replacing Covent Garden with an elevated motorway. No doubt the argument that an 18C road layout could not accommodate 20C century motor traffic made logical sense. With the benefit of hindsight, the conservation-led development of the old fruit market is one of the many unique assets that contribute to London's world class status. Not many people cross the world to visit a motorway or a tower block.

OPEN campaigns for a quality of development that maintains the best of the old, alongside the best of the new.

OPEN Shoreditch said...

Thanks Christopher T E for your comment and your shared interest in our neighbourhood. OPEN Shoreditch actively supports local growth and improvement too.
The architecture is indeed an elegant response, given an impossible brief to extract more value from the site than can reasonably be expected. High rise development on Bishopsgate Goodsyard may be inevitable, to support the amount of public amenity envisaged by LBTH's Interim Planning Guidance. But high rise needs to be 'mitigated' with low rise, rather than dominate it. Not many people would have a problem with this building towards the City end of Bishopsgate Goodsyard, but north of Bethnal Green Road it would dominate a neighbourhood of low to medium rise housing, and the Conservation Area in which it is situated.
A condition of getting planning permission for the site requires the developers to implement temporary uses. The Box Park is one example of proposed temporary uses, until the permanent development is underway. In response to concerns about Box Park's proposed trading hours, OPEN Shoreditch met with the developers, who agreed to revise their planning application to shorter trading hours, ie 8pm instead of midnight.
Initial enquiries suggest that Box Park will be fully let, mainly but not exclusively to small creative start ups. The kind of business that flourishes in Shoreditch and makes it such a diverse and popular destination. So the reservations previously expressed about Box Park have been addressed. And it will discourage the current illegal flea market traders on Bethnal Green Road, until permanent development is underway.
If you want to contribute more to the debate, you could join your local neighbourhood association. For example there was a Boundary Neighbourhood Assembly on 21 May on Arnold Circus. The event included a presentation on the proposed community-based planning process for Bishopsgate Goodsyard, plus other neighbouring residents' groups were be there and happy to engage on the subject of our built environment.

Anonymous said...

Covent Garden Market was an extant market of great architectural and historical merit and it was rightly conserved. Whereas on this site there is no such building. Conserve existing buildings of merit by all means, but when you start to stunt development of new ones on the grounds that they're taller than the old ones, you've lost the plot. Successful cities change and build according to their contemporary needs. Personally, I also find the contrast quite beautiful and emblematic of London and its historical layers.

OPENShoreditch said...

Thank you for you interest. People in the vicinity of the proposed development feel differently. The building is imposing and out of scale in the neighbourhood and exceeds density guidelines, thus constitutes overdevelopment under current policy. On the right site it would be an elegant building, which is why the neighbourhood has been campaigning for community involvement in a masterplanning process for the adjoining Bishopsgate Goodsyard site – a more appropriate location for buildings of this scale.

Anonymous said...

"People in the vicinity of the proposed development feel differently"? Why do Nimby groups always try to speak on behalf of people they have no mandate to? Surely you mean "SOME people in the vicinity.."?
Besides, I was only pointing out that your Covent Garden comparison was an inappropriate one since "not many people cross the world to visit" a low grade brick block with adjoining car-park either.

About OPEN Shoreditch said...

Anonymous 17:16 is right to point out that views about development are rarely unanimous. OPEN Shoreditch is a coalition of about 12 community associations and businesses in the area around the proposed development site. Most are formally constituted and registered with Tower Hamlets as statutory consultees. That makes them active and engaged citizens with a mandate, and stakeholders in relation to these development proposals. While community views are rarely unanimous, more that 1000 people have made written objections to date.